The Voyage Over (excerpt from Will R. Bird short story, “No Yorkshire Lass Can Live Alone”)

The Yorkshiremen sailed from Scarborough during the third week of March in the fine ship “Duke of York.” There were sixty-two settlers on board with their peculiar possessions. Grain was stowed in the stall-like cabins, a sack being used as a pillow in nearly every berth to keep the seed dry. In the deep hold were trunks, chests of drawers, dressers, bales of bedding, hogsheads of crockery, linen, scythes, reaping hooks, plows, yolks, tubs, buckets, everything counted as a necessity for settlers.

Each family had bread and meat and cheese for the first few days. When the food supplies began to dwindle and a daily ration of one pound of beef and one pound of bread per person was provided. A deck hearth was chained in place and, with its smoke sail swinging overhead, was put into use. The smell of baking loaves was good , an incense that usually brought the passengers on deck.

Stormy weather set in on the third week at sea. There was a sickness that dragged, in some cases, to become ship’s fever. April turned mild and gentle by the halfway mark. Soon there were regular evening gatherings on deck. After a round of simple games there would be a singing of hymns in which everyone joined.

Asa was one of the few not sick. He was on deck a great deal, getting to know every person on board. Jonty and Melody were rarely free from nausea, so they did not bother him at all. Patience recovered her spirits in April, had good health the remainder of the voyage. Yet Asa considered she had had ill-luck.

There was a fine young man on board from a Yorkshire village remote from Banfield. He had the best seed grain of any in his cabin, was a strong-looking, handsome lad, eager to get at work in the new land. Asa made it a point to become acquainted with him, then arranged a meeting with Patience.

“Nathan Hodge is a champion lad,” he praised to patience when he had her alone afterward. “Ten sacks of seed in his cabin and best I’ve ever handled. He talks of buying land instead of renting.” Patience smiled. “Are tha trying to make a match for me?” she asked. “Be careful what tha say to him.”

He had to let the matter be for days after that, for Patience was not easily outwitted. She was too shy to permit any hurry in the matter of courting and she avoided Nathan. Then the sickness came and Nathan was one of the victims. He was looked after by a lass from his home village and when he was able to walk about again she was by his side continually. Asa watched them a time, shook his head and gave up his ideas.

The ocean seemed very wide. He began to get tired of the sea and to sit more on his tool chest in his cabin. It was a big chest, made of strong oak, cleated with iron and securely locked. He had his carving tools in it, and the key to the lock was carried on a cord placed around his neck. Sitting on his chest made him feel better. One day just before leaving for Scarborough he had had a grand idea. Getting an old leather sack, and a spade, he had gone to the sunny corner where he sat in the garden during the summer. The earth was loose and warm. Thereafter he had a secret which he shared with no one, not even Patience. When he thought of it as he sat on his chest, he would smile with satisfaction. None of them would think he were childish if they knew what he had done.

A morning after the end of April, Asa heard shouting overhead. He went on deck. A night mist had lifted from the sea and on the horizon a faint low line hung against the sky. “Land! Land!”

The shout was echoed the length of the ship. Yorkshiremen boiled up from below to stare over the gray-green water with wonder-struck faces. A farmer who had been sick croaked a cheer like the crowing of an aged rooster. Someone laughed at him, tremulous at first, then with a wild guffaw. Soon everyone was laughing, with the women embracing and shedding happy tears.

All day Asa stayed on deck. At noon the scent of land and forest came faintly on the air. There was scarcely a breath of wind but in the evening they saw the harbor mouth and the yellow lights of Halifax became cat’s eyes in the darkness. Smells of the populated hillside hung heavy in the dusk and there was a shouting of welcome from wharves they could not see. In the morning he could see a dozen ships ranged along the water front. Mewing gulls soared and dipped all about them. A long sprawl of buildings lay on the slope above the water. This at last was Nova Scotia. The wide salt sea was behind them. Yorkshire was a memory.